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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 16th December 2016 > The Syrian Civil War has been a nightmare for Barack Obama. It might be even worse for Donald Trump

The Syrian Civil War has been a nightmare for Barack Obama. It might be even worse for Donald Trump




THE LEAFLETS fell from the sky over Aleppo, offering dire warnings. “If you don’t leave these areas quickly,” they admonished civilians, “you will be annihilated. Save yourselves.… Everyone has left you alone to face your doom.…”

As Syrian government forces continue to steamroll through eastern Aleppo, the rebel opposition’s last stronghold in this warravaged city, the leaflets aren’t just a warning for residents; they’re also an indication that President Bashar al-Assad is poised for victory. It was only a year ago that the rebels seemed on the verge of taking Aleppo, once Syria’s bustling commercial capital. But due to a massive Russian bombing campaign, the ophthalmologist turned strongman has held on to power—and reduced the city to rubble.

Yet even with Aleppo under the regime’s control, the Syrian Civil War would still be far from over, and the conflict promises to be as much of a nightmare for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as it has been for his predecessor, Barack Obama.

This is not how the U.S. wanted the war to end—Washington once hoped that moderate rebels would take over a democratic, post-Assad Syria. That didn’t happen, and much of the Sunni-dominated opposition has largely morphed into a bewildering array of radical jihadi groups. Now, the White House has run out of options to challenge Assad, and for all its condemnation of the regime’s assault on Aleppo, the Obama administration has also done nothing to stop it. “Essentially, U.S. policy has become to acquiescence in Assad’s retaking of Syria,” says Joshua Landis, the head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “It’s clear that the Obama administration has decided that it cannot risk dislodging Assad from Damascus. The rebels are too Islamist, too radical.”

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